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In the 17th century, Hasekura and three other low-level samurai are sent to seek trade with Father Velasco, a Franciscan missionary and interpreter, they pursue their mission from Nueva Espana to Spain. Along the way, they endure not only the hardships of the journey but priest, who believes that their conversion will gain him the appointment as Bishop of Japan, convinces them that they will succeed only if they convert to Christianity, and reluctantly they agree. Failure, however, is their only reward. After years of wandering, they return to Japan, where they face shame and persecution. Basing his novel on the actual voyage of Hasekura, Endo (Deep River, LJ 2/15/95) masterfully evokes the struggle between the Western individual and the Eastern collective identity and in so doing plumbs the depths of honor, faith, and human endurance. The result is an expansive novel of astonishing power and insight. Strongly recommended for all collections.
A historical novel of early contacts between 20th-century writers.
Posted December 31, 2009
This book rather blew me away -- and I don't say that too often. It makes me want to go and find a book about Marco Polo's travels.
Endo, whose work I did not know before reading The Samurai, is an honored Japanese writer who recreates from scant historical records the spiritual journey of a entourage in the early 1600's as they travel from Japan to Nueva Espana to Spain to Rome and back to Japan, returning to a nation that has closed its doors to foreigners. The characters are skillfully sketched so that one can relate to each in turn, even when they are very unlike oneself -- and sometimes to several simultaneously. Their stories are painful, haunting, uplifting, and thought-provoking about what it means to live in a vast world, in a small community of family and place, and amidst rival claims for loyalty and faith.
Especially memorable characters include Roku, the samurai; Yozo his servant; Velasco, the ambitious Franciscan missionary; Nishi, the young envoy; Tanaka, the envoy whose honor is sadly tested; and Matsuki, the envoy who defects from the journey. But there are so many others as well: Roku's silent wife Riki, his two sons, Velasco's family and his adversary Valente, other attendants of the envoys, Cardinal Borghese, and many others who have ways of appearing or disappearing, somewhat like the symbolic swans that migrate through Roku's native marshlands and haunt his dreams.
Posted February 5, 2002
This was a wonderful book. I could identify with the different characters on their journey to understand that emaciated man on the cross---who people called 'Lord'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.